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Oracle to PeopleSoft: The pink slip's in the mail

Thousands of PeopleSoft workers await termination letters via express mail--a cold and unusual way to handle layoffs, experts say.

Oracle appears to be adding insult to injury in its merger with PeopleSoft--taking the unusual step of notifying workers of their termination by sending pinks slips via express mail to their homes.

Shipments to thousands of PeopleSoft employees across the country are expected over the weekend, according to sources close to the company. Those spared pink slips will get packages too--containing new Oracle employment contracts.

That makes it a nail-biting weekend for many PeopleSoft employees, who number more than 11,000 worldwide. Oracle may cut as many as 6,000 jobs, according to its own earlier estimates. It plans to announce the official number Friday.

"The view of most of the employees out there is that it's a really callous way to do it," said Joe Davis, chief executive of Coremetrics and a former group vice president at PeopleSoft who stays in touch with his former co-workers.

"They view it as just another in a series of steps where they feel like they're not being treated in a very humane way."

An Oracle representative did not return repeated calls for comment.

Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft, completed just last week, has been particularly rancorous. PeopleSoft fought the deal for more than 18 months in a bitter battle marked by two court struggles and public vows by Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison to shut down PeopleSoft and discontinue its products.

Nevertheless, Oracle's layoff method is in particularly poor form, several human resources professionals said.

"It's very dehumanizing when you receive a letter in the mail and you have no one to respond to you," said Zarin E. Randeria, an independent executive coach and human resources consultant in San Francisco.

Others noted that the approach could backfire on Oracle, which needs to retain some PeopleSoft talent to pull off the merger.

"It's not to their benefit to come in and intimidate and antagonize the new work force," said John Challenger, chief executive of employment-services company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "You're trying to integrate work forces and prevent a we-they attitude among new employees. Many people getting these notices may feel it was impersonal and heavy-handed."

Internet message boards were also buzzing with critical comments about it.

"It's very efficient but pretty cold," said one anonymous commentator on a Yahoo Finance message board.